ST. LOUIS - A hospital is the last place anyone wants to be but it's the first place Joey Renick is today. And on too many other days.
"When he was in transplant. We were here every day for 40 days straight," his wife Caylee says.
The 23-year-old newlywed recently underwent a bone marrow transplant at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. Another step on a path of life, that has been an obstacle course.
It all began in October of 1996, when Joey — then just 3 — was diagnosed with A.L.L., Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
"It's clearly a life-threatening disease," says Dr. Gordon Gale. "If anybody doesn't get treatment, they will most certainly pass away."
But after three years of treatment including chemotherapy, Joey went into remission. As the years went on, there were only two chances that it would return. Slim and none.
"The chances of it recurring are very, very small. But not zero," explains Dr. Gale.
"And then it came back right before my 18th birthday," recalls Joey. "I was angry. I thought it was unfair. I was confused."
This time, after more intense chemo, Joey went into remission again.
Two-and-a-half years later, he was engaged to be married when the A.L.L. returned.
"Whenever Joey was really sick in the hospital. Dreaming about our wedding is what got us through each and every day," says Caylee.
But it's hard to pick out china when you're worried about platelets. The wedding was on hold until Kellsie's Hope stepped in.
Gail Marchbanks runs Kellsie's Hope, in honor of her daughter Kellsie, who passed away after her second round of cancer treatment.
"We were lying in her hospital bed and she said mom I want to start a foundation that helps kids with cancer, "explained Marchbanks.
Kellsie's Hope grants wishes to patients who have relapsed which is often worse for them than the first go-around with cancer.
"Families always say it's like someone stepping on their chest and not getting off," explained Aleeza Granote, an SSM oncology social worker. "And that opportunity to create a family memory in the midst of such turmoil has been such a blessing for so many."
Which brings us to the sandy beaches of the Florida panhandle.
With Joey in recovery, Kellsie's Hope Foundation helped arrange a dream wedding. Joey and the love of his life Caylee were able to set aside the yesterdays and focus on today.
"Everybody that we really love and care about. Our closest friends and family were there. It was amazing. We had a perfect time," says Caylee.
But in this family, perfect usually comes with an asterisk.
Joey's 4-year-old nephew Thomas was recently diagnosed with A.L.L. Terrible news but maybe not as scary as it might have otherwise been.
"When we told Thomas that he had Leukemia, the first thing he said was 'I'm just like Uncle Joey,'" remembers Carol Anne Lorenz, Thomas' mom and Joey's sister.
The new husband's new role, is as supportive uncle.
"Just show him that there is light at the end of the tunnel," says Joey.
Though he's spent much of his life in the hospital, Joey is planning on spending even more. He's going back to school to become a nurse.
"I really like helping others. So I'd really like to give back and serve others," says Joey.
The road to recovery has been a long one but thanks to love, family and charity, one young man is proving that you can break his body but never his spirit.
For more information on Kellsie's Hope: http://kellsieshopefoundation.com/
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